The most vicious MMA fighter alive today might be pretty damn tough ... but evidence shows that, compared to our ancestors, he's about as intimidating as a Montessori kid wearing an anime backpack. Don't believe us? Then how about ...
Today in great ways to open your horror movie screenplay, archaeologists in the mid-1980s were digging up an ancient necropolis in Verona, Italy when they stumbled upon a skeleton with an amputated hand, buried with an iron knife. Recently, they decided to take a closer look at ol' stumpy and found evidence that the knife was his hand. We're talking an ancient Merle from The Walking Dead here, made even more impressive by the fact that this guy lived around the 7th century, when mankind had barely figured out toilet paper.
The man had calluses consistent with the uses of a prosthesis on his stump, and his teeth were worn down in a way that suggests he used them to tighten the straps on his hand-blade. He was part of a Germanic tribe known as the Longobards, who were known for their scrappiness, and was somewhere in the area of 50 or 60 when he died (so, like, 240 years old by today's standards). How exactly he perished remains a mystery, but our top guesses are 1) badass fight to the death and 2) nose-picking incident.
By the way, the original excavation also found a horse without a head, which they hopefully also replaced with a giant knife.
Humans began smelting iron during the Iron Age, which was very good timing on our part. Thing is, archaeologists have found a whole bunch of iron weapons predating that time, sometimes by thousands of years. So where did the iron come from? Easy: outer space. In 2015, tests confirmed that a dagger buried with Tutankhamen was made from iron that had fallen to Earth in a meteorite. That inspired Albert Jambon, of France's National Centre for Scientific Research, to conduct a major survey of unusually early iron artifacts from across the globe ... and every tested item was made from meteor iron. All of them.
Meteor iron is already in its metallic state, and it seems that ancient people from Egypt to China learned to extract it and make prized weapons and ornaments for fancy people. Better yet, Jambon thinks that Bronze Age people were actively "hunting meteorites" for their iron. For example, the three iron objects buried with Lil' Tut were apparently made from three different meteorites, so it's not as if the Egyptians accidentally stumbled upon the one and were like, "This is exactly what our king needs to stab werewolves." Of course, it would have been a very dangerous profession, since calling yourself something like "Zannanza the Sky-Smith, Professional Meteorite Hunter" carries a 90 percent risk of death by sexual exhaustion within the first week.
In 2006, archeologists dug up a 4,800-4,900-year-old woman (it's impolite to ask) who had replaced her missing left eye with a pimped-out replica. It was made mostly made out of tar, with a layer of gold threads representing capillaries, and eight thick lines radiating from the pupil. Presumably the archaeologists then checked the rest of the grave for booby traps and cat skeletons, because that sounds suspiciously like history's first supervillain.
Analysis of the eye socket revealed that the woman wore the eye regularly, so it wasn't something she only busted out for weddings and dinner parties. One of the archaeologists said that the eye "must have glittered spectacularly, conferring on the woman a mysterious and supernatural gaze," which is exactly what you'd say if you were possessed by her ghost.
Mrs. Goldeneye was found in the Burnt City, a sprawling and surprisingly advanced Bronze Age metropolis discovered in Iran in the 1990s (they even had cartoons, sort of). At six feet tall, she was also practically a giant for that time and place, and an analysis of her skull suggests she may have hailed from the Arabian Peninsula. It remains unclear how she came to journey to the Burnt City, what her role was in life (Oracle? Priestess? Basketball player?), or why she was buried with such high honor, so we're going to go ahead and assume they made her queen the instant she waltzed into the place. That's what we'd do.
The kangling is a traditional flute that happens to be made from people. Translated as "leg-flute" (giggle), the kangling is a hollowed-out femur that functions as a double-headed trumpet. It's often adorned with leather and ominous gems, and it sounds just as unsettling as it looks:
The kangling originated in India 1,500 years ago, the creation of Shaviite and Buddhist yogis who spent their entire lives doing yoga, not bathing, and jamming out to bone instruments. It was then adopted by Tibetan Buddhists, who had a surplus of human bones laying around due to their tendency to feed their chopped-up dead loved ones to hungry vultures. And thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can buy one without leaving the couch! For about $1,000, the Garuda Trading company will deliver a "wonderful old human thigh bone trumpet" to your door, with little to no risk of losing your kidneys in a Himalayan black market alleyway.Moving on,
Proving that even tourist attractions were more hardcore 2,200 years ago, the city of Hierapolis in what is now Turkey had its very own "gate to hell." The Plutonium (named after the god of the underworld, not the element) consisted of a stone archway that killed any animal that walked through it, like something out of the ancient X-Files.
But that's all clearly bullshit, right? That's what the archaeologists excavating the place figured ... and then birds flying into the site started to drop dead.
For the Romans, the Plutonium was part religious ceremony, part mind-blowing magic act. Spectators sat in an arena and watched as eunuch priests led healthy bulls into a cave-like grotto, and then dragged them out as fresh corpses. But like the mysterious "healing powers" in the nearby thermal baths, the Plutonium's deadly effect was in fact caused by volcanic activity. A fissure below the grotto emits a low cloud of noxious carbon dioxide, allowing the castrato hosts to keep their heads above the toxic fumes while the oblivious animals became drowsy and asphyxiated. The carbon dioxide was a visible mist, which spectators were told emanated from Kerberos, Hell's three-headed guard dog.
One account written at the time describes how birds and small animals were sold to tourists, who could toss them into the cave and watch their deaths in astonishment, because boredom and cruelty have always been best friends. The Plutonium was torn down by Christians in the 6th century, possibly to cement their monopoly on magic death caves.
Make your axe even more rockin' than that lute up there with some crossbones fretboard stickers.
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